LAST UPDATED 12/3/2011

This is not an endorsement of YouTube over Vimeo, or any other video-hosting site. This post is simply a series of notes geared specifically to indie filmmakers on how to get the most out of using YouTube.


Even if you don’t upload your own films, YouTube is a good place to network with other filmmakers.

The first question is whether you will be posting content and comments under your own name, or as a production company, or under the name of a film. I recommend picking one of the first two options. You want to build an audience and carry it from project to project, so creating an account for just one film will not help with that.

People tend to like to follow real people and not companies, so using your own name / persona is probably best. Unless you think you’ll have multiple collaborators posting with this account. If you’ve already got a production company partnership with real legal paperwork — i.e. an idea of what happens if people go their separate ways — only then do I recommend posting under a production company account.

Optimizing Files

YouTube can currently handle a number of formats, but the idea is to feed it the highest quality it will accept so that the lower-resolution copies it makes will be good.

I assume you’ve mastered at 1920 x 1080 resolution and 23.976fps in your NLE of choice. From there, here’s the procedure I use…

Step 1
If you’re working in Avid: Export a Quicktime DNxHD 175x with (at least) 48k 16bit audio as your digital master.

If you’re working in Final Cut: Export a Quicktime in Apple ProRes 422 HQ or Uncompressed 10bit 4:2:2 codec with (at least) 48k 16bit audio as your digital master.

Step 2
Open the digital master with Quicktime. Use the Export function…

Movie to Quicktime Movie
Compression Type: H.264
Frame Rate: Current
Key Frames: Automatic
Data Rate: Automatic
Compressor Quality: High or Best, Encoding: Best quality (Multi-pass)
Best Quality Encode with 41.1k AAC audio.

Files Longer Than 15 Minutes / HD Files

If your movie is longer than 15 minutes and/or 1080p HD, you’ll need to get cleared by YouTube for longer, higher-quality uploads.

To do this, you need to verify your account. This will require giving YouTube a mobile phone number. They will send a text with a number code to that phone number. Enter the number and boom! you’re golden.

Sharing Rough Cuts

When you upload a video, under “Video information and privacy settings” you have the option of setting your video to Private or Unlisted. If you want to strictly control who can see the early cut, use the Private option. If you are not as worried about the link getting passed around among friends, choose Unlisted which means only people with the link will be able to find the video, it will not show up in searches.


Currently the only path open to all for making money off your movies is to have YouTube put ads on top of them. While YouTube has made some deals with content creators to sell downloads/rentals, this option is not currently open to the general public.

To enable ads on your videos, you’ll first have to be approved by YouTube. You can begin the application to become a partner here.

Got additional YouTube tips or workflow improvements? Leave a comment…